LED: CREE XP-G2, 3mm RED & 365nm UV LEDs
Battery: Built-in (Li-Ion, 280mAh)
Modes: 3 intensities of white light, UV light, red light and red signal mode.
Switch: Digital, head.
Date: January 2016
MecArmy is a new manufacturer in the scene, which seems to be focused on small EDC flashlights and care about exotic materials and minimalist designs. Among the innovations that this brand offers the SGN3 is undoubtedly one of the most original of its catalog as it is a flashlight concept not very common.
Product packaging is minimalistic, consisting of a small blister framed within a cardboard with full color prints, among which are some of the most important features of the product.
Inside the small blister, besides the SGN3 we find a quality, paracord adjustable wrist strap as well as a small user manual and a split-ring for the keychain.
The design of this small keychain flashlight is certainly unique … it is a flashlight with its own battery, built-in inside and rechargeable via USB, so there is no need to replace it when it runs out, and by simply connecting it to the mains through Smartphone power adapter or similar it can be easily recharged. It is similar to the popular Nitecore Tube concept, but built with durable materials and with much higher performance and functionality.
The first interesting detail is the way in which MecArmy produced this piece, as instead of CNC lathe machined aluminum they used diecast/metal injection, using a mold to which is added the melt liquid metal, in this case zinc (according manufacturer), and it is allowed to solidify to the desired shape. This process is much more expensive than traditional CNC turning, but also has some advantages such as design freedom when it is not a typical cylindrical shaped piece.
The body, offered in various colors like black, gray, olive green or sand, has nicely defined laser engravings, with the finish of the metalwork is great, with all edges well rounded and smooth exterior finish. Color, rather than the typical anodizing, has been applied by a layer of ceramic paint which is then baked to make it more durable and robust.
The optics of this SGN3 are quite peculiar, as we have in the middle a CREE XP-G2 with its own smooth reflector and glass lens, similar in size to that would be in any AAA flashlight, and at each of the sides there are small 3mm LED, one red and the other UV.
We have a silicone button coating the digital switch that hides beneath its surface two colored LEDs are used as recharging status indicators. The touch feel of the switch is good, and thanks to the generous surface it occupies and its slight protruding it is extremely easy to locate by touch.
On one side we have the charging port, microUSB shaped, protected by a rubber cover having a small flange-shaped handle, which greatly facilitates the action of removing the coating using a fingernail.
The tail of the flashlight is dominated by a huge anchorage area, allowing us to pass through it any split-ring, cord or carabiner to attach the light everywhere. The rounded ring shape prevents this SGN3 from tailstanding.
As mentioned before, the design and concept of this MecArmy closely resembles that of the popular Nitecore Tube, although in my opinion the materials and functions used in the SGN3 make it far superior to the cheap Nitecore proposal.
The interface is simple, we have a total of 5 modes available, all separated into different groups:
- On, off and mode change: The MecArmy SGN3 lights up with a simple click on the digital switch. When turned on, the flashlight will access white light Med mode and simple click within the following five seconds will cycle by successive modes change in the following order: Med> Low-> High-> Off.
Past that five seconds from the last interaction with the switch, a single click will turn off the flashlight.
- UV light: Holding the switch for more than one second, both with the flashlight on or off, will switch from white-light to ultra-violet light. UV light has only one mode and a single click on the switch will turn off the flashlight.
- Red / Signaling: The next group is the one referred to the red light. As with the previous group, simply press and hold to switch for more than a second, so the white light group will switch to UV, and keep holding the button another second to enter the red light mode group. Once there, single click will switch between continuous red light and slow red strobe signal.
- Memory: After about five seconds after shutdown, the SGN3 resets the active group back on the main group of white light so it cannot be considered that this flashlight has memory.
- Recharge: The integrated battery of 280mAh capacity (according to manufacturer) is easily recharged using any Smartphone or similar adapter, with microUSB jack. A full charge takes approximately an hour and a half. The signal LEDs located under the cover of the digital switch will change from red (charging in progress) to green (fully charged).
(All measurements are taken following the procedure ANSI NEMA FL1, taking as value the highest reading of between 30 and 120 seconds after activation. More details here.)
The distribution of modes is fairly balanced, and considering that the Med mode is the default, I find it a nice intensity according to a common daily use of a keychain flashlight. White light modes, except High, are achieved by PWM, although high frequency because it is difficult to see at naked eye.
On the other hand, I measured the visible light emitted both by the red and UV LEDs, thus obtaining approximate values, although I must point out once again that the sphere concept with which I work disregarded the color at the time of its construction and calibration, and those numbers do not have any interest beyond the merely speculative.
Instead of betting on a typical Li-Ion performance in keychain light (AKA, using a 10440 in a AAA flashlight) MecArmy has opted for a neutral performance, halfway between the typical curve of a NiMH AAA and the maximum high output from a 10440 powered flashlight.
The result is a line such as “unregulated” featuring a relatively high output when compared with a AAA NiMH, and extended runtime when compared with 10440.
Interestingly, flashlight, instead of an abrupt downturn or off when the battery is about to run out, makes a progressive decline in the output, giving us a clear signal that it’s time to recharge its integrated battery.
For comparison, given the unusual type of flashlight is this, I tried to use various flashlights, with the premise that all of them are designed to serve well on a keychain. On the one hand we have the tiny CooYoo and DQG Spy, both fed by also tiny 10180 Li-Ion batteries with only ~80mAh. Furthermore, direct competitor, the cheap Nitecore Tube. To add a more interesting comparison, I added two AAA flashlights fed with NiMH that often lives in our keychains, such as the DQGTinyAAA or the well-known Olight i3S.
In contrast to the Nitecore Tube, the fact of having a “traditional” reflector and an CREE emitter combo makes the main beam profile of white light to be identical to what we would find in a common AAA flashlight with a combination of XP-G2 and smooth reflector.
We have a well-defined hotspot, and a fairly homogeneous spill light, free of artifacts or rings.
The tint is pretty good, cold white with no hint of greenish or yellowish hues.
The red light gives us a pretty decent projection for this type of LEDs, which projects the light more or less evenly.
UV light has a similar beam profile as red, fairly homogeneous projection, but the appreciation of light vary greatly depending on the objects to illuminate as light in the range of 365nm that this emitter provides is practically invisible to the human eye.
The UV emitting a 365nm wavelength range is capable of stand out the fibers of the new euro banknotes correctly, showing the reaction in three colors in the new fibers.
To be a new manufacturer, I must admit that the level of finish and detail that this SGN3 offer is above average, especially considering we have used a concept little exploited by manufacturers, but which in turn has a reputable brand competitor who surely by now have sold thousands of units of its economic Tube model. The SGN3 beyond compete directly with Nitecore model offers a wide range of extra features, plus a lot more durable and reliable materials. I particularly like the range of colors available, all very eye catching and interesting.
DQG AAA · CooYoo Quantum CR · MecArmy SGN3 · DQG Spy Ti
Negatives: The user interface is definitely the weakest point of the SGN3. It has a nice mode spacing, and some really interesting features, but the way we interact with the flashlight to take full advantage of all of them have, in my opinion, much room for improvement. Having to switch between all modes of the same group, or wait for the fice second reset to turn off the flashlight is something that I guess nobody will like, especially when you consider that the last of them being the High mode, which will ruin our visual adaptation to the darkness if we don’t have the care to look away at the moment we go through it. Since we cannot take the battery out, and considering that the switch is pretty exposed, a block-out function would have been great too.
Positives: I like that instead of blatantly copying an already popular design, MecArmy has decided to make his own interpretation of it, adding enough extra features and overall quality with more noble materials than mere cheap plastic housing. The performance, through the use of an XP-G2 as the main emitter is several steps ahead against the alternative from Nitecore, and therefore same applies for the tint and the beam profile, identical to popular AAA flashlights. UV feature will be very useful for those requiring a support light when checking official documents or banknotes, and the red light allows us to navigate in complete darkness without losing the visual adaptation, which really is useful. The signaling mode can also be very useful if we want to show off our position if we walk down the road on darkness. Size and weight content for a keychain multi-purpose tool, it sure will surprise more than one if decide to give it a try.
MecArmy SGN3 sample provided by manufacturer for review.